LBUSD Colleges Will Access Mental Health Resources Through Upcoming Wellness Centers

The Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) will expand its wellness centers — previously only offered at the high school level — to college sites to foster a sense of belonging and make resources more easily accessible to students.

There are currently 11 wellness centers on LBUSD high school campuses, including Cabrillo, Poly, Renaissance, and Wilson. According to Assistant Superintendent of School Support Services Erin Simon, more than 65,000 students have entered these centers in the past year for help.

Some of the supports offered at the centers include short term counseling services by appointment, family support groups and workshops and a basic needs cupboard where students are free to pick up snacks, non-perishable food , extra toiletries and clothes.

The purpose of the centers is to strengthen the social and emotional skills of students, families and staff. Similar to planning for high school centers, middle school students were given a survey asking them to share the type of activities they would like the centers to offer and the type of resources they need.

However, the college centers will be adapted to the specific needs of middle school students. According to Assistant Superintendent of Middle Schools and K-8 Christopher Lund, some of the key differences include establishing a referral system to help with the organization instead of the drop-in system currently used at the high school level.

Lund also said promoting greater parental involvement is another key difference, as he called them “partners in learning.” Unlike at the secondary level, college wellness centers will be directly connected to Family Resource Centers, which provide counseling and referral services to LBUSD families, not just students.

“We want to replicate what we learned from our high school model while differentiating ourselves for our young students,” Lund said.

Wellness centers are not crisis centers but rather a prevention/early intervention resource. Students who present with any type of mental health crisis or who may need a suicide assessment will not be referred to the wellness center but rather to the appropriate expert.

Director of Student Support Services Claudia Sosa-Valderrama said the centers were not meant to be a place where students would be “afraid of being seen”, but rather a space offering various forms of support.

“We’re not just going to write phone numbers on a post-it and give it to a student or a family because it’s [something] anyone can get it on the internet,” Sosa-Valderrama said. “We will help them access these resources.

The district hired 12 workers to staff the college’s 23 campuses; each site will either have a full-time social worker or share one with another college. Each center will also have a student committee that will work alongside social workers to ensure that activities are student-centered and student-led.

“It’s really complicated and comprehensive work that I think we wanted to do and [now] having the opportunity with some of the funding streams to try what works,” said Board Chair Megan Kerr.

The wellness centers are funded by ongoing government funds and are expected to open by October.

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